Your Interview Alexandra Kalimeri
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
Hi! My name is Alexandra Kalimeri and I am a self-employed lighting designer based in Madrid, Spain. I studied Electrical and Computer Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece and as pretty much everyone else in our industry I got into lighting almost by accident.
On the fourth year of my studies, I stumbled upon the Lighting Laboratory. Apart from the fascinating science of light, I discovered that this was a field where I could combine my academic background with my strong interest in art and design and I finally got involved with architectural lighting.
To further my knowledge in this field I decided to continue my studies with the MSc Light and Lighting at the University Colleague of London, UK.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
From the beginning of my career, I had the chance to work for big architectural and engineering firms in London. That gave me exposure to very interesting local and international projects. I got involved with high end retail stores, big infrastructure projects and later with sport stadiums and arenas.
There is one characteristic among all these projects that I absolutely love. They are there to facilitate our everyday life and to be enjoyed by many people. It is a great feeling when for my everyday commute in London I was using a tube station for the design of which I was part of the lighting team.
But if I had to pick my favourite type of project that would definitely be sport stadiums. They are like small cities, combining public urban realm, canteens, retail, high end restaurants, accommodation for the players and sports lighting.
What project are you most proud of and why?
That would have to be one of the first projects I worked on.
It was a relatively small high end retail store with a complicated brief. We were asked to create a specific light pattern on the floor that required a lot of scientific research and the production of a bespoke technical luminaire to achieve this pattern. It was something totally new for everyone involved. We had to do research, test our theories, provide full scale mock ups and fitting prototypes. The team was brilliant and the project turned out to be great.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
For most of my career I have been working alone or for very small teams of two to three people. The experience and knowledge in the team has always been limited. But this has allowed me to develop my research and critical thinking skills. I quickly adapted to look for information in any available sources, forums, guidance documents but most importantly the lighting community. There is a great network of gifted lighting designers and knowledgeable manufacturers willing to share their knowledge with younger professionals. All we need is to reach out and ask for guidance when needed.
How does light inspire you?
What inspires me is the power and humbleness of light.
Light is the source of life on our planet and it reveals to us the world around us.
Proper understanding of daylight allows the design of magnificent buildings, while artificial lighting has the power to alter the appearance of a space and provoke emotions. And yet we rarely acknowledge its effect.
You can work comfortably in a correctly daylit building, relax in a cosy lit restaurant, admire the colours and the composition of a painting in a museum, be carried away with a play in a theatre without even noticing the lighting. Unless you are in the lighting industry that is!
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Do not limit yourself to the learning and development opportunities you have at your current role. Identify the skills you lack and seek ways to develop them. There is a chance for technical development, presentations and public speaking outside the work environment.
Also, our industry has the great advantage to attract people from various backgrounds. Do not miss any chance to network and learn from others.
Finally, get involved with lighting societies, organizations and professional bodies. These are great platforms to be heard and actively push for the things that really matter to you.
Inspire and allow to be inspired.
MSc Light and Lighting, UCL, UK
“Do not limit yourself to the learning and development opportunities you have at your current role.”